In July of 1995, I spent six weeks living with the monks at Mount Savior Monastery near Pine City, N.Y. between Elmira and Corning. I offer these two poems for this week’s Wordsmith Wednesday that I wrote while there:
The clouds of unknowing roll over me,
nuclear in their design,
probably like those that carried him,
his spirit out to the Pacific and beyond
the vapor trail I view on the horizon
now. An airliner lifts off, brushes
the cross on the steeple,
the silence into sonic resonances.
Like the SAC bomber that buzzed
across his hermitage’s roof
(its bay doors, the jaws of Apocalypse,
if opened could swallow the countryside).
The same type of bomber that took him
stateside. On Sunday after Mass,
I listen to the blues in the common room,
ponder the irony of lyrics, saints’ fates.
Squawk from the laurel breaks my psalm-chant.
Expecting a raven, I cross the threshold
of contemplation only to find the unexpected
staring me down just off the four-wheel path.
He paces around the hermitage like the hunter
that he is, telling me to leave him to his prey,
probably the wild turkey clan that hobbled by
earlier. So a fellow brother later tells me.
I do not know that now, think this creature
some manifestation of evil come to interrupt
my prayer. I rebuke him, rattling my beads
at him, warding off his wiles, his deceitful
beauty. Yet he remains, crying, circling me,
vigilant in his torment, testing my motives
for invading his territory, my will to stay.
Later that night I imagine his den underneath
my cot, him scratching at my floorboards.
For now I return to my lectio, his forlorn cry
just a hue of the creation, the eternal now
like temptation, suffering, death. Inescapable.